Special Agent Joel Wallace of the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation has been called in to investigate the death of Billey Joe Johnson. He worked alongside two investigators from the George County District Attorney’s Office.
Wallace said this arrangement doesn’t happen very often. And now he wonders why they were affected. “If you ask me to investigate the case, then I am an independent investigator,” he said. “But why would I need the district attorney’s investigator to oversee the investigation of a case? “
The Johnsons were initially relieved, as Wallace had experience investigating suspicious deaths. As a black detective, he had faced racist reactions to his job.
Reveal host Al Letson and reporter Jonathan Jones visit now-retired Wallace to talk about what happened with the investigation. When Wallace finds out what Reveal has discovered, he begins to wonder if the case should be reopened.
Listen: Discover the entire Mississippi Goddam series.
Read: Sun Herald 2008 Editorial, The Johnson case must not remain a mystery
To explore: Search the files and documents on the death of Billey Joe Johnson.
Read: American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi 2017 Report, Achieving Police Accountability: A Master Plan for Mississippi
Read: 2011 US Department of Justice Report, Investigating the death: a guide for the on-scene investigator
Read: The Seven Major Mistakes in Suicide Investigations, by Vernon J. Geberth, published by Law & Order Magazine in 2013.
Reporters and producers: Al Letson and Jonathan Jones | Editor and Executive Producer: Kevin Sullivan | Series Producer: Michael I Schiller | Series digital editor: Nina Martin | Editor-in-Chief: Andy Donohue | Production assistant: Steven Rascon | Production manager: Amy Mostafa | Digital Producer: Sarah Mirk | Fact Checker: Rosemarie Ho | Reporting and production assistance: Ko Bragg, Michael Montgomery, Laurel Hennen Vigil and Melissa Lewis | Original Music and Sound Design: Jim Briggs and Fernando Arruda with assistance from Claire Mullen, Najib Aminy, Brett Simpson and Kathryn Styer Martinez | Interim CEO: Annie Chabel | Acting Editor-in-Chief: Sumi Aggarwal | Advocate General: D. Victoria Baranetsky
Mama Blue sang our theme song, written and composed by Nina Simone. Thanks to the estate of Nina Simone and Musique et Stratégie.
Photos from the series by Imani Khayyam. Logo design by Joan Wong.
Special Thanks: Katharine Mieszowski, Alexis Hightower and Jen Chien, as well as Michael Crosby, Robin Fitzgerald and the Biloxi Sun Herald for breaking the history of Harrison County Jail.
Support for Reveal is provided by the Reva and David Logan Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Heising-Simons Foundation, the Hellman Foundation, Democracy Fund, and the Foundation as.